Turkmens Commit to Pipe

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmenistan will press ahead with a planned gas pipeline through Russia despite reports the project has been put on hold due to a pricing dispute, Turkmen officials said Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov's visit to Turkmenistan later this week, Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov stressed his commitment to the project.

"Honoring its obligations, Turkmenistan will continue its efforts to promote the Caspian Gas Pipeline project," he was quoted as saying by state media.

Russia and Turkmenistan had been due to finalize the deal in September but have so far failed to agree on the price of supplies.

A source close to the negotiations said the pipeline issue would dominate Berdymukhammedov's talks with Zubkov on Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman on Tuesday questioned Turkmenistan's support for a U.S.-backed gas pipeline to Europe skirting Russia. Bodman, who met Berdymukhammedov last week in Ashgabat, said he was not convinced that the Caspian country would fully support the project that would take gas to Europe without crossing Russian territory.